The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved the addition of health warnings on advertisements for sodas and other sugary beverages, informing consumers about the potential of such drinks to contribute to diabetes, obesity and other health issues.

Drafted by Supervisors Scott Wiener, Eric Mar and Malia Cohen, the three-part legislation is designed to educate people about the connection between sugar-sweetened drinks and obesity, tooth decay, diabetes and other related illnesses.

The proposed warnings were modeled after the health warnings issued by the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General regarding tobacco cigarettes.

Aside from placing the warnings, the legislation also aims to place a moratorium on advertisements of sugar-sweetened beverages on city property and prevent the city government from spending on such beverages.

Wiener said he is pleased to see that the board unanimously supported the legislation in spite of a lobby from members of the soda industry against city's Soda Tax during the 2014 election. The lobby was reported to be worth $10 million.

In the November election, around 56 percent of voters in San Francisco approved a two-penny per ounce tax on sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages distributed in the city. However, they failed to reach the two-thirds vote required to approve the special measure.

Wiener explained that a 12-ounce can of soda contains an average of ten teaspoons of sugar. He said that while these products may taste good, they are making people sick.

He asserted that sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to the growing number of people who have type 2 diabetes, and that the only way to curb this trend is to properly educate the public.

During the hearing of the Land Use and Transportation Committee on the legislation, Mar said that the American Beverage Association hired a dietician to disprove the claim that sugar-sweetened beverages can cause health issues in people.

Lisa Katic, a registered dietician and consultant for the American Beverage Association, argued that the proposed health warning unfairly targets the industry of sugar-sweetened beverages in the country.

She said that the legislation ignores the fact that the real issue is the public's lack of access to proper nutritional guidance and the absence of a regular exercise routine in people's lives.

Katic pointed out that addition of health warnings will not provide the desired impact and that the board should instead focus on educating the public on the amount of calories each person needs daily based on their level of activity.

However, the supervisors present at the hearing as well as medical professionals who support the legislation maintained that the warning labels will help people understand the health hazards concerning sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

Photo: Dean Hochman | Flickr 

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